Vocabulary of Music
acoustic (adjective): without inbuilt electrical equipment to amplify the sound - I can play acoustic guitar, but I can't play electric guitar.
album (noun): a collection of songs released as a digital download or a 12-inch LP record - Do you have Michael Jackson's album Thriller?
alternative hip hop (noun): any style that isn't mainstream commercial hip hop - Have you heard much alternative hip hop?
alternative rock (noun): non-mainstream rock music inspired by punk and post-punk - My sister likes pop music, but I like alternative rock.
ambient music (noun): calming, atmospheric background music - Have you heard Brian Eno's ambient music?
amplify (verb): to make sounds louder, esp. by using electrical equipment - If we don't amplify the drums, they'll be hard to hear.
artist (noun): a professional singer, musician or songwriter - Taylor Swift has become one of music's best-selling artists.
art music (noun): music written and performed by professional musicians mostly for the upper classes, like classical Indian music and European opera - Wealthy Chinese lords paid musicians to play relaxing art music, while poor people played lively folk music for fun.
audio editing software (noun): software used to produce music, movie soundtracks, etc. - Before we had audio editing software, we used tape loops.
authentic (adjective): real or genuine - You can still see an authentic Chinese opera in Beijing.
autoharp (noun): a small harp with buttons to press for playing chords - Is the autoharp used much in bluegrass music?
avant-garde (adjective): new, unusual and experimental - Harry makes avant-garde electronic music in his spare time.
backbeat (noun): a beat counted as "two" or "four" in 4/4 rhythm - Can you hear the snare drum playing on the backbeats?
backing singer (also "backing vocalist") (noun): a singer who gives vocal support to a lead singer - Tessa was one of Joe Cocker's backing singers.
ballad (noun): a slow song usually about love - Janis sings up-tempo rock songs as well as slow ballads.
banjo (noun): an African American stringed instrument based on the African kora - Do you play four-string or five-string banjo?
bar (noun): one of many small sections in a piece of music that contains a fixed number of beats - Each bar in the song has four beats.
bass (guitar) (noun): an electric guitar with thick strings for playing low "bass" notes - We need someone who can play bass.
beat (noun): the regular pulse in music that dancers move to and audiences clap to - Dance music always has a strong beat.
beats (noun): the breakbeat rhythms that MCs rap to in hip hop music - Who produced the beats on this album?
bebop (noun): a complex style of up-tempo jazz from the 1950s - The best bebop player I ever heard was Charlie Parker.
big band (noun): a large jazz band, esp. one that plays big band jazz - Most popular singers of the 30s and 40s had their own big bands.
big beat (noun): an EDM genre with breakbeats, heavy bass, vocals and samples - Maxim loves that big beat sound.
block party (noun): a free party on the streets of a city block - Are you going to the block party on Saturday?
bluegrass (noun): a style of country music based on old-time Appalachian music - We're going to a bluegrass concert tonight.
(the) blues (noun): African American guitar-based folk music that led to R&B and rock - I'm learning some old blues songs.
bpm (noun): beats per minute - The fastest drum and bass tracks are around 160 bpm.
boy band (noun): a group of three or more boys or young men who sing and dance - My little sister loves that Korean boy band Super Junior.
brass (noun): instruments made of brass, like the trumpet, trombone and tuba - Harry plays trumpet in a brass band.
break (noun): a moment in which most instruments stop, but one or two continue, esp. drums - We sampled a snare-drum break from an old jazz record.
breakbeat (noun): a syncopated jazz or funk rhythm of the sort sampled in hip hop music - Hip hop and dubstep use breakbeats, not disco beats.
breakdancing (noun): a style of street-dancing in hip hop culture - The breakdancing in this Turf Feinz video is incredible.
breakdown (noun): section of a dance track with less singing and more percussion - Does the track have a good breakdown?
call and response (noun): two musical phrases, one of which answers the other - The call and response is before the last chorus.
catchy (adjective): enjoyable when first heard, and difficult to forget - It's so catchy! I can't stop hearing it in my head.
(the) charts (noun): lists of the best-selling songs of the previous week - Our single got to the top of the charts!
chord (noun): three or more notes played together - Lots of great songs only have two chords, you know.
chorus (noun): the part of a song with the same melody and words each time it's heard - I'll sing the verses, and you sing the choruses.
classic (adjective): very good and highly-regarded for a long time - Neil loves those classic American cars of the 50s.
classical music (noun): European orchestral and keyboard music that's written by composers - Sayoko loves classical music, especially Chopin's piano pieces.
collaborate (verb): to work together with someone to produce something - Has Kanye collaborated with Drake yet?
commercial (adjective): made in order to be popular and make money - Garth's country music is much too commercial for me.
contemporary R&B (noun): recent R&B that mixes soul, pop and hip hop sounds - Contemporary R&B is really popular these days.
crossover hit (noun): a country, dance or hip hop song that's on the pop-music charts - We'll all be rich if we have a crossover hit.
country music (noun): a genre of American music with origins in the rural folk music of Europe - Harry only listens to country music.
country pop (noun): a style that mixes pop and country music - Country pop is really popular in America these days.
country rock (noun): a style that mixes rock and country music - He doesn't like country pop much, but he loves country rock.
dance-pop (noun): up-tempo pop music with a dance rhythm - Her dance-pop singles always become hits.
deejay (verb): to perform the skills of a club or hip hop DJ - Who's deejaying for Nas these days?
disco (also "discotheque") (noun): a 70s nightclub in which DJs played dance records - The gay discos in New York were fabulous.
disco music (also "disco") (noun): 70s dance music with a steady four-on-the-floor beat - My sister loves dancing to disco music.
DJ (or "disc jockey") (noun): someone who plays records at dance clubs or on radio - Do you like the tracks this DJ's playing?
DJ mixer (noun): a small mixer made for DJs - All you need is two turntables, a DJ mixer and some records.
double bass (noun): a large stringed instrument for playing low notes - In jazz, double bass strings are plucked instead of bowed.
drop (noun): a point in EDM when the rhythm and sounds suddenly change - If it's a really great drop, everyone goes crazy.
drum and bass (or "DnB") (noun): an EDM genre with breakbeats, heavy bass and a fast tempo - Let's make a drum and bass track.
drum kit (noun): a set of drums with a bass drum, snare drum, tom-toms, hit-hat and cymbals - How much did your drum kit cost?
drum machine (noun): an electronic instrument that makes sequenced drum sounds - Our drummer quit, so we're using a drum machine now.
dubstep (noun): an EDM genre with breakbeat rhythms, very heavy bass and a slow tempo - My parents don't even know what dubstep is!
duo (noun): two people who make music or perform together - Who's on your list of best hip hop duos?
dynamic (adjective): lively and having a lot of energy - She's one of the most dynamic singers I've seen perform.
EDM (noun): electronic dance music - That band didn't start out playing EDM, did they?
explicit (adjective): offensive, obscene or "rude" language - Has the album got an explicit language warning?
fan (noun): someone who likes a particular artist or band very much - Our teacher's a really big fan of Eminem.
feedback (noun): a high-pitched noise made when a microphone is close to a loudspeaker - How do you control feedback so it fits the music?
fiddle (noun): another word for "violin", esp. in country and folk music - Who's playing fiddle on that record?
flow (noun): the ability to rap rhythmically and stylishly - He's been practising, so his flow's getting better.
folk music (noun): traditional music from a particular region or country - Did you hear any folk music while you were in Chile?
folk rock (noun): a style that mixes folk and rock music - We heard lots of folk rock bands in San Francisco in the early 60s.
formula (noun): a method or plan that's believed to succeed - What's your formula for success in business?
four-on-the-floor (noun): a 4/4 rhythm with bass drum on the beat and hi-hat on the offbeats - Terry's sick of playing those four-on-the-floor disco beats.
funk (or "funk music") (noun): rhythmic groove-based music that developed from soul in the 60s - Bootsy Collins was the best funk bass player ever.
funky (adjective): having the feel of funk music, esp. rhythmically - That track Superstition by Stevie Wonder is incredibly funky.
gangsta rap (noun): hardcore-style rap from Los Angeles - My cousin still buys gangsta rap records!
genre (noun): a kind or style of music, movie, TV show, painting, etc. - In music classes at school, the only genres we studied were classical music and jazz.
G-Funk (noun): funk-based subgenre of gangsta rap - What's your favourite G-Funk track?
glam rock (noun): a rock style in which male artists wore make-up and glamorous clothes - David Bowie had many styles besides glam rock.
gospel music (noun): rhythmic church music of African American Christians - They sang great gospel music in those old churches.
graffiti art (noun): street art that's drawn, painted or sprayed in public places - What do you think of Banksy's graffiti art?
groove (noun): a highly-rhythmic pattern repeated for a long time, esp. in funk music - Hip hop artists still sample James Brown's funk grooves.
grunge (noun): punk-based alternative rock that developed in the USA in the 90s - Wasn't Nirvana the first grunge band?
hardcore rap (noun): a tough style of New York hip hop music - Hardcore rap's like those old gangster movies.
harmony (noun): the combining of musical notes that sound good when played or sung together - If we don't sing in harmony, it'll sound terrible.
heavy metal (noun): hard rock with heavy bass, complex drumming and singers who scream - My dad used to be in a heavy metal band.
hi-hat (noun): a pair of foot-operated cymbals that's part of a drum kit - Drummers play bass drum with one foot and hi-hat with the other.
hillbilly (noun): an impolite word meaning a poor mountain farmer in the U.S.A. - In Nashville, old-time music was called hillbilly music.
hip hop (also "hip hop") (noun): a musical genre in which artists rap over beats and sampled sounds - I love Kanye West's hip hop albums.
hit (noun): a best-selling song on the pop-music charts - It's a great song. It'll be a hit for sure.
honky tonk (noun): a country music style known for its powerful, emotional songs - Who's your favourite honky tonk singer?
hook (noun): part of a song that's easily remembered, often a chorus - The Knack's My Sharona has one of greatest hooks ever!
horn section (noun): a group of musicians playing brass instruments and saxophones - How many songs does the horn section play on?
house (or "house music") (noun): 80s dance music similar to disco but with more electronic sounds - Those old house tracks still sound great.
house band (noun): a group of session musicians who work for a music company - House bands don't become famous, but singers do.
house producer (noun): one of a record company's full-time music producers - How many house producers does Sony Music have?
hymn (noun): a religious song that's sung in church - My grandma loves singing those old hymns.
improvise (verb): to invent music spontaneously while playing - If you want to be a jazz musician, you have to learn how to improvise.
instrumental (adjective): played on instruments, without vocals - There's a long instrumental section in the middle of the song.
jazz (noun): a genre in which artists improvise within a rhythmic and harmonic framework - We've got all John Coltrane's jazz records.
jazz rap (noun): rap music made with jazz samples or instruments - Molly doesn't like jazz rap much.
Latin music (noun): a genre of popular music in Latin America and Spain that has complex rhythms - Latin music makes me want to dance.
lead guitar (noun): a guitar on which melodic lines and solos are played - Who's playing lead guitar in your new band?
live (adjective): played at a concert in front of an audience - You don't hear live music in dance clubs anymore, only recorded music.
lyrics (noun): the words of a song - If you don't listen to the lyrics, you won't know what a song is about.
mainstream (adjective): normal and preferred by most people - Most people like mainstream hip hop more than alternative hip hop.
mandolin (noun): a stringed instrument like a guitar with a curved back - You can hear mandolin on those early old-time recordings.
MC (or "Master of Ceremonies") (noun): a DJ's onstage announcer, esp. one who raps - Does your MC ever forget his raps?
melody (noun): a tune, or the notes of a song - Can you whistle the song's melody?
mixtape (noun): a collection of free tracks, usually downloadable or on cassette tape - Let's download some more mixtapes.
modal jazz (noun): jazz that uses Arabic or Indian modes instead of European scales - McCoy Tyner played modal jazz with John Coltrane.
neo soul (noun): a style that mixes contemporary R&B and 60s or 70s soul - Angelina played some great neo soul tracks at our party.
offbeat (noun): a beat between the main beats, often counted as "and" by musicians - Disco has hi-hats playing on all the offbeats.
old-time music (also "hillbilly music") (noun): country music originating in the Appalachian mountains of the USA - Do people still play old-time music much?
outlaw country (noun): a style of country music popular in the 1960s - Johnny Cash was one of those outlaw country singers.
pedal steel guitar (noun): an electric steel guitar on a stand with foot pedals for changing the sound - He's teaching us pedal steel guitar.
pop music (noun): a popular music genre with catchy songs that are easy to remember - I love listening to pop music.
pop song (noun): any song that follows the pop music formula - Paul's favourite pop song is God Only Knows by The Beach Boys.
pop soul (noun): a style of soul music with a pop-music sound - Mum's listening to pop soul again.
popular music (noun): music that many people like and buy, like rock music and heavy metal, hip hop and rap, pop songs, etc. - Our music teacher knows lots about classical music, but nothing about popular music.
post-punk (adjective): of a style of experimental rock that developed after punk - Have you heard of a post-punk band called Joy Division?
pounding (adjective): having a very strong, loud and steady beat - Those pounding disco tracks are still great to dance to.
power chord (noun): a basic chord that can add power to music - The Kinks used lots of power chords in their song You Really Got Me.
producer (noun): someone who oversees the recording of music - Who was the producer on Nirvana's first album?
progressive EDM (noun): EDM made for listening to as well as dancing to - I listen to progressive EDM when I'm on the bus.
protest song (noun): a song with lyrics that protest against war, injustice, etc. - Why don't people write protest songs anymore?
psychedelic (adjective): related to powerful drugs like LSD - Lots of bands used psychedelic designs on their album covers in the 60s.
punk (rock) (noun): 70s and 80s rock music with short, fast, noisy songs - The first punk band I saw was The Sex Pistols.
rap (1) (noun): a set of lyrics rapped to a hip hop beat - He's never done a rap about getting a job, has he?
rap (2) (verb): to speak rhythmically in rhymes over a hip hop beat - You want me to rap? I've never rapped in my life!
rapper (noun): an artist who performs raps over a hip hop beat - My daughter wants to be a rapper when she grows up.
rave (noun): a large dance party held outdoors or in an empty building - Did you go to any of those raves in the 90s?
record (noun): a thin disc of black plastic on which recorded music is imprinted and sold - I bought lots of punk records in the 70s.
recording (noun): a piece of music that's recorded in a studio or at a concert - It's one of the best recordings they've made.
recording session (noun): time spent recording in a music studio - We've got a recording session on Monday morning.
reggae music (noun): a genre of music that developed in Jamaica in the 1960s - If you want to hear reggae music, try Bob Marley and the Wailers.
remix (verb): to change a track's sound-level mix and add effects - When he remixed our song, he made the bass drum much louder.
reverb (noun): an electronic sound effect similar to an echo - They used lots of reverb on those early Beach Boys songs.
revival (noun): the return to popularity of an old style or form - There was a rockabilly revival during the punk music years.
rhyme (noun): a word that ends with the same sound as another word - If you don't use rhymes, you can't call it rapping.
rhythm (noun): a pattern of beats and sounds that musicians play in time to and dancers move to - The rhythms of African music are really complex.
riff (noun): a repeated series of chords or notes, esp. on electric guitar - Justin wants to learn some heavy metal riffs.
rockabilly (noun): a style that mixes Western swing and R&B - Sam recorded lots of rockabilly songs at Sun Studio in Memphis.
rock music (noun): rhythmic blues-based music played on guitar, bass, drums, etc. - Let's listen to some rock music for a change.
sample (verb): to copy a sound or section of music from a record or audio file - We sampled a snare-drum break from an old soul record.
sample-heavy (adjective): having many sampled sounds - If you like sample-heavy hip hop, you'll love this album.
scale (noun): a series of notes in a fixed order from lowest to highest - The major and minor scales each have seven notes.
scratching (noun): moving a record quickly on a turntable to create a rhythmic scratching sound - There's a lot of scratching in his beats.
secular (adjective): not religious, or with no connection to religion - Sam Cooke recorded secular versions of old gospel songs.
session musician (noun): a musician who can be hired to play on a recording - Session musicians don't get much work these days.
set (noun): a group of songs performed one after the other - How many songs were in the band's first set?
singer-songwriter (noun): a musician who writes and performs his or her own songs - Most singer-songwriters also play guitar or keyboards.
single (noun): a song released as a digital download, or as one of two songs on a 7-inch record - Have you heard their latest single?
standard (noun): a song that is often recorded and performed - Lots of Roy Orbison's songs have become pop standards.
stand-up bass (or "string bass") (noun): another word for "double bass", esp. in country music - Rockabilly bands had stand-up bass instead of bass guitar.
soul (or "soul music") (noun): a genre that combines elements of gospel music, R&B and pop - My favourite soul singer is Al Green.
soundtrack album (noun): an album containing music made for a film - Has the soundtrack album been released yet?
strings (noun): an orchestral string section with violins, violas, cellos and double bass - Only the biggest jazz orchestras had strings.
swing (noun): up-tempo jazz for dancing played by big bands or jazz orchestras - Benny Goodman wrote lots of swing tunes.
synthesizer (noun): an instrument that makes and combines electronic sounds - Matt played organ and synthesizer in Use No Hooks.
tambourine (noun): an instrument with metal discs that rattles when hit or shaken - Mick Jagger often plays tambourine when he sings.
techno (noun): an EDM genre from Detroit that led to many subgenres - Which style of techno do you like the most?
texture (noun): the musical pattern created when sounds are combined - The textures on this track are amazing.
the South (noun): the southeastern part of the USA - Some of the best soul and hip hop artists are from the South.
tour (verb): to perform concerts in a series of cities or countries - The Rolling Stones are touring Europe later this year.
track (noun): a recording of a song or piece of music - Their new album has some really great tracks.
traditional music (noun): music that developed over a very long time, like traditional African drumming and Chinese folk songs - People still play traditional music in Peru's mountain villages.
trance (noun): a subgenre of techno with electronic beats and dreamy textures - Dad's dancing to his old trance records again!
tune (noun): a song or melody - I know the tune, but I can't remember what it's called.
turntable (noun): a rotating plate that records sit on while being played - Dad said he'd get me a turntable for my birthday!
twelve-inch single (noun): a special single that's longer than usual - Twelve-inch singles of Sylvester's disco songs are awesome.
underground rap (noun): rap music by artists outside the music industry - I never hear underground rap on the radio.
up-tempo (or "uptempo") (adjective): having a fast beat - If you want to write a happy song, it should be up-tempo.
verse (noun): the part of a song with the same melody but different words each time it's heard - The song has a chorus and three verses.
wah-wah pedal (noun): a pedal pushed with the foot to electronically change a guitar sound - Listen to Shaft by Isaac Hayes if you want to hear a wah-wah pedal.
Western (country) music (noun): a style of country music that developed in the western states of the USA - My dad likes Western music more than old-time country music.
Western swing (noun): a style that mixes Western music and big-band swing jazz - Those Western swing records are great to dance to.
woodwind (noun): instruments played by blowing across a hole (e.g. flute) or through a reed (e.g. saxophone) - Are you sure the saxophone is a woodwind instrument?
yearn (verb): to want something very much - His yearning for a better world is expressed in his songs.
yodel (verb): to sing in a way that quickly changes from a very high voice to a normal voice - When I tried to yodel, everyone laughed.